Thursday 9 July 2020

Ooo, "How Lucky we Are!"

Prof Carenza Lewis @CarenzaLewis · 11 g.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme has recorded 1.5 MILLION finds - an amazing achievement - just think how much knowledge about the past is now available for us all in those 1,500,000 objects. Well done, every single person involved. The UK is lucky to have @findsorguk
How lucky? The population of England and Wales is 56 million - that means that over the period of 23+ years (at a net cost of millions of pounds), only one in 33 members of the public has ever shown anything to the Scheme. How deeply has its message of 'Best Practice' in fact penetrated British society?

The people who are "lucky" are the fifty or so archaeologists that the PAS has secured employment for down the years.

In any case, how much "knowledge about the past" is actually contained in a heap of loose objects on something called a database, and how does one define "knowledge about the past"? Ebay's millions of loose British portable antiquities also provide "knowledge" about old things too, don't they? And that showcase of antiquities costs the public nothing. 

What detailed use has Prof Lewis been making of the information about finds made by the members of the public in their gardens and fields around their houses in her ongoing work on  Currently Occupied Rural Settlements in Eastern England? As far as I can see, she has not been making extensive use of this material in her community archaeology projects - and if these 'data' cannot be used in this kind of research (think about it a minute), then what use are they?

When the PAS is scrapped to save money (post-Covid and post-Brexit), it will be seen how deeply the lessons it was created to teach finders about an ill-defined 'best practice' have in fact sunk in. Then we will assess how "lucky" it was that Britain elected to deal with collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record in the way it did 1997-2020, and how much of a "success" that was, seen in the long-term perspective.

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